Should I Talk To My Boss About My Mental Health

So, should you talk about your mental health to your boss?

If you had a broken leg, you wouldn’t think twice about telling your boss. But when it comes to mental health, there still is a stigma. Even thought some have “discovered” mental health over the last year, they are still plenty of people who do not really understand it.

Once upon a time

For a very long time I was of the opinion that you should never mention any mental health issue to your boss because it would be perceived as a weakness and kill my career on the spot. I hold onto this belief VERY firmly for a very long time.

Until I got in a situation where I was obliged to open up to my line manager. I was working on a internal assignment in Denmark. Over there I was the sole lawyer in country and my boss was in the UK. I was working 80h a week, living a vey unhealthy lifestyle and when depression hit me, it hit me hard. I went to see my GP who wanted me to go part-time. You can imagine how I panicked! Asking to go part-time meant having to reveal my depression to my boss! He would think I was unfit to do my job!! It would go on my HR record. This was the end of my career. 

But my GP did not give me a choice. So the next day. I took a deep breath and call my boss. It took a lot of guts, but I did it. I also told him I needed his help because I was so afraid it would ruin my career and I didn’t want HR to know.

So he did help me. First, he told me off for working such long hours as he had been telling me to slow down for months. Second, he told me to do my actual hours (37h) as this would be part time for me and that way no one had to know. He also asked me to speak to a colleague I trusted just so he knew someone in the office was looking out for me. And we took it from there. 

It was a huge relief to have an ally, in fact 2 allies, while I was getting professional support and sorting my health out.

should I talk to my boss about my mental health

Fresh start

Fast forwarding a couple of years. I am back in the UK and I have changed roles within the same company (yes, I did manage to get a new role while going through therapy and being on medication for severe depression, because I had come to realise that my job was part of the issue).

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This is my first day in my new role and I sit down with my line manager for our first 1:1. And I tell him that there is something he needs to know. I have a long history of depression, but I finally got on top of it and I now have a system to manage the bad days. I tell him that I even write a blog about it where I tell people what to do if they want to support someone else.

He tells me he doesn’t know anything about mental health but thanks me for my openness and ask if he can read the article I just mentioned. This was the best thing I could have done. From that day we had our own system. When I had a bad day, he would not be scared of asking me how I was really doing, and I would not be shy in telling him if I had a bad day. And on a bad day, we would go for a 20 minutes’ walk and a little chat and that would help.

Should I Talk To My Boss About My Mental Health – key take away

So my advice is, test the waters. Know who you are working for. But if you are going to open up, offer a solution too. It will make it so much easier for your manager to support you. 

Try this and let me know how you get on

I would love to hear your thoughts so share them in the comments!

This article is part of the series Happier At Work, which you can find here.

And remember, happiness is a choice, and you are in charge!

Further resources

Here is the article I mention in the video: How to fight depression. It is the second part of the article that is useful to share with someone who wishes to support you.

The Happiness Advantage: The Seven Principles of Positive Psychology that Fuel Success and Performance at Work by Shawn Achor

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